Creatine, a dietary supplement better known in the athletic world than in neuroscience, may have protective benefits for people with Alzheimer’s. According to a study in the June 15 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, mice that were fed creatine experienced significant protective effects on their brains.
Creatine is a naturally-occurring compound that affects energy metabolism. According to Ethan Signer, Professor Emeritus of Biology at MIT, neurodegenerative diseases in general are often accompanied by deficiencies in energy metabolism. “It is possible that supplementation with creatine…might in principle compensate for that deficiency.” He noted that there have been previous studies indicating lowered activity of creatine metabolic enzymes in Alzheimer affected brains.
The team of scientists drawn from several leading US research institutes, including Harvard Medical School and Cornell University, tested creatine on mice who were artificially given the gene for the neurological disorder Huntington’s disease.
The primary conclusions were that creatine supplementation in mice significantly improved survival, slowed the development of brain atrophy, decreased body weight loss and improved motor performance. Overall, the results showed that disruption to specific metabolic processes, at least in a mouse model, may present a new strategy for slowing down degenerative processes.
Signer commented that the benefits appear to occur despite the different genetic patterns of disorders like Huntingtons Disease, Lou Gehrig’s and Alzheimer’s. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if creatine were found to have a benefit for AD comparable to that already found in Huntingtons Disease, ALS and Parkinson’s Disease models.”
Although this study did not specifically test creatine on mice with Alzheimer’s, creatine is considered completely safe for humans and is available without prescription. Signer therefore proposes that this “could be considered an argument for taking it on a speculative basis.”